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Bronze Age

Archaeologists classify the periods following the Ice Age into three categories: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. The Bronze Age was the period that followed the Stone Age, and the beginning of the Bronze Age was characterized by the introduction of metal and metal implements into human society. The unorganized settlements of humans that were characteristic of the Stone Age developed into highly evolved civilizations. The Bronze Age saw the earliest written script and witnessed much evolution in society and life. In parts of the world such as Mesopotamia, the Bronze Age commenced around 4500 BC, in China and Japan around 3000 BC and in Britain around 1900 BC.

Bronze Age Civilizations
The Bronze Age civilizations of the Near East are perhaps best known for their glorious culture and avant-garde innovations. The ancient Sumerians were perhaps the oldest and the best known among the Bronze Age civilizations of Mesopotamia. Not only were the Sumerians the earliest society to be based on religion and political administration, they also invented the wheel, boats, and ships.

Sargon of Akkad built the first empire of the world. The Babylonian civilization came to be known for their contributions to architecture and the sciences. Hammurabi, the Babylonian king, was the first to introduce written laws and develop a legal structure for his subjects.

The Bronze Age civilizations in other parts of the world were just as glorious, and were a period of learning. The Indus Valley Civilization of India became known for their civic constructions and their exemplary art and culture. The Vedas were written in the Bronze Age and form the basis of cultural life in India even today. The onset of the Yayoi Period in Bronze Age Japan saw the speedy development of agricultural techniques.

In about 3200 BC, King Menes established the First Dynasty of Egypt by uniting the Upper and Lower Nile Valleys. The civilization of Egypt was highly advanced and remains a source of mystery and learning for archaeologists and historians. The development of the Mycenaean Civilization in Greece during the Bronze Age laid the foundation for the development of the Classical Greek civilization.

Metal and Metal Works
The most significant characteristic of the Bronze Age was the surge in metallurgy. The early part of the Bronze Age was referred to as the Chalcolithic Age. Copper and bone were the materials used to make the tools and implements that humans began using. Copper metal works were first known to the people of the Mesopotamian regions and gradually spread to other civilizations. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, was soon discovered and manufactured in large quantities because of its durability. By 1200 BC, the discovery of iron ended the Bronze Age and then commenced the Iron Age.

Language and the Written Script
The earliest form of writing, cuneiform, was developed by the Sumerians. The earliest cuneiform tablets discovered by archaeologists were formed by pressing a reed stylus into a wet clay tablet and then letting it dry. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest written literature in the world, dating back to 2500 BC. The Egyptians developed their own hieroglyphic and hieratic script not long after. The Linear B script of the Mycenaean Civilization developed independently from the two in ancient Greece.